According to scientists from New York and Norway, Botulinum toxin (Botox) could be used as new treatment for stomach cancer as it has been discovered that the anti-wrinkle treatment slows tumour growth.
Botox is most commonly used to improve facial aesthetics, and is often applied to wrinkles.
The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that using Botox on nerves in the stomach had very positive effects on stomach cancers, which has the second highest mortality rate.
The teams at Columbia University Medical Centre in New York and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim found that disrupting the nerve that runs from the brain to the digestive system helped to slow the growth of tumours or make them more responsive to chemotherapy.
Dr Timothy Wang, professor of medicine at Columbia who headed up the research team, said, “We found that blocking the new signals makes the cancer cells more vulnerable – it removes one of the key factors that regulate their growth.”
Co-author Professor Duan Chen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, said: ‘The anti-cancer effects were remarkable, especially with local vagotomy or by injecting Botox.
‘It actually surprised us. The finding that Botox was highly effective was particularly exciting.’
He added: ‘We believe this treatment is a good treatment because it can be used locally and it targets the cancer stem cells.
This could be more effective than either surgery or Botox in more invasive cancers, since it would seek out cells that have broken away from the main tumour.
Other solid tumours, such as prostate cancer, may have their growth stimulated by similar nerve signals, say the scientists.
But more research was needed to identify the nerves involved, which were expected to vary between different organs and tumour types.
Image credit: Ask Dr Graf